In 2000, a Quintessence board member, Wah Wong suggested that the Quintessence Foundation sponsor a “latch on”. He had heard about a similar event held in Australia in 1999 when 536 children “latched on” at the same time in the same location. With some reservations, the Board agreed and in 2001 the first Quintessence Breastfeeding Challenge was held. The sites were restricted to British Columbia, the most western province in Canada and the response was excellent with 856 children breastfeeding at 26 sites throughout the province. This first Challenge was done under the rules of the Guinness World Record with the goal being to try and have the most women at one site. Our application to Guinness for a multi site simultaneous category was refused and upon reflection it was decided to design our own rules to count every child breastfeeding at 11am local time at every registered site.
In 2002 we opened registration to any participant in Canada and in 2003 the United States was included. In subsequent years registration has included mothers from anywhere in the world. Each year the numbers have gradually grown until 2020. With the onslaught of a pandemic most health units were overwhelmed. The biggest site wa a "virtual" event held out on Montreal for the province of Quebec.In 2021 we will again be encouraging virtual events were indicated by local health authorities. No matter what the size, all events are important to supporting breastfeeding families.
With no advertising budget, word has spread via the internet and word of mouth. Sites have varied widely to meet the needs of the community in which they were located. Some have been large groups at malls, government building and parks. Others have been small groups in homes, public health offices, WIC offices and midwives/doctors offices and hospitals including NICUs.
The Quintessence Challenge occurs in the fall during or close to when Canada celebrates World Breastfeeding Week in the first week of October. The date selected was usually the first Saturday in October. In 2019, we have shifted to including any site that registers and holds a Challenge event during the first week of October. This was based on feedback we received from across Canada. In 2020, the global pandemic resulted in our offering a "virtual challenge" for the first time with small person-to-person events in location where public health authorities indicate it is appropriate.
This event has encouraged community discussion about issues related to breastfeeding and donor milk banking. It has provided a focus for health promotion around human milk and the importance of breastfeeding and the key role it plays in the health of a community. When we started in 2001, we thought this would be an event we would hold for a year or to. Here we are 20 years later, working to improve support for all families to have information to make informed feeding choices and be supported in those choices.
“Latch ons” Around the World
In 2002, a large group in Berkley California challenged the Australian record and set a new world record of 1,130 children breastfeeding simultaneously at one site. This world record stood until 2006 when the Philippines set a new record of 3,738 children breastfeeding simultaneously at one site. The Philippines held a second challenge in 2007 with 590 sites and 22,500+ children (22,500 mothers) breastfeeding simultaneously at the same local time at multiple sites. The organizers of this massive 2007 event, the Children for Breastfeeding and the Nurturers of the Earth in partnership with WABA, explained that "these events were organized because at the time, US lobbyists and businesses were trying were trying to get the Department of Health to water down breastfeeding advocates efforts to strengthen the laws that protect breastfeeding. The battle with the companies reached the Supreme Court and the halls of the Philippine Senate and Congress in public hearings." This was certainly an impressive effort!
A number of countries hold a “latch on” every year usually with multiple sites with mothers “latching” their babies at the same local time. New Zealand started holding a “latch on” in 2002 and has noted increased numbers with 1111 children breastfeeding at 10am local time on August 1, 2008.
France began holding a “latch on” called Le Grand Tétéé in 2006 and in 2007 had 1,360 children “latched on” at 36 sites through out France on the same day at the same time ( www.grandtetee.com/).
In 2007 Quintessence Foundation and the organizers in France and the Philippines began discussing working together and agreed to hold a global challenge on the same day - October 11, 2008. In 2009 and again for 2010, it has not been possible to hold a joint "latch on" due to conflicting holidays and other events. But, we all have the same common goal as Nona Andaya-Castillo, a key breastfeeding organizer in the Philippines puts it, "This is not a competition among nations, rather it is a global effort to save children's lives." A number of "latch ons" are held every year in different countries on different dates around the world..